How to know if you're having a healthy poop
Have you ever wondered about what your poop says about you, and whether you are having a healthy poop? When you have SIBO your bowel habits can be all over the place, frustratingly changing from day to day. Toilet habits can be a taboo subject but your poop says a lot about your overall health. It’s important to know what healthy poop looks like, what should you look out for, what’s good and what might be an indication that there is an area for concern.
This week Lynda Griparic joins The Healthy Gut to share her toilet bowl confessions. Lynda calls herself the ‘poo whisperer’; using her own personal experience with constipation and her qualifications as qualified naturopath, yoga teacher and wellness practitioner, she shares with us what a ‘good’ poop should look like.
Our poop frequency and appearance gives us insight into how well our gastrointestinal tract is functioning and can even indicate if there is a serious disease process taking place.
The Bristol Stool Form Scale (BSFS) is a 7-point scale which has been used in clinical practice to measure stool appearance and bowel transit time (the time it takes for food to move from mouth to anus). There is even a modified 5 point scale Bristol Stool Chart for children.
Most of us are detached from our human “manufacturing”. Investigating only when we feel off, gassy, constipated, bloated or when there’s an uncontrollable urgency to pass poop.
I would like to ask you to do the unthinkable? ...Get up close and personal with your poop.
To infuse some fun into this foreign concept, I along with the fabulous illustrator Joel Tarling have created poop characters to help your poop communicate with you better. Bridging the gap between you and your bowel behaviour. Consider me the poo whisperer who gently taps you on the shoulder when you're not paying attention.
You see, your poop is trying to tell you what’s happening under the human epithelial bonnet. If you listen, it may just save you years of poor health and loads of money spent trying to band-aid treat symptoms.
Would you ignore taking action if your baby didn’t poop for a week or if their movements were explosive and strangely coloured? I didn’t think so.
Then quit ignoring the messages your poop is trying to deliver.
Poop characteristics to look out for
✓ Texture - formed or loose
✓Any noticeable bits in it (undigested food, mucus, blood, pus, fat globules)
✓ Does it sink or float?
✓ Smell - mild or foul
✓ Straining or easy to pass
✓ Accompanied by pain
✓Any changes from your normal frequency and appearance?
We are all so wonderfully unique which means that there are many variables to the appearance of our poop. There are however some poopy characters that warrant your attention. Some of these are mentioned below.
The Poo Talent Quest
The Rock Star
Looks like pebbles, pellets, rocks, nuts or rabbit poop
Often hard to pass
Feels incomplete and unsatisfying
Medium to dark brown
Could be - dehydration, dysbiosis (gut flora imbalance), stress, IBS, poor diet that lacks sufficient fibre and water. Pellet poop is constipation.
Try upping your fibrous vegetable intake to 3 cups per meal, increase purified water intake to at least 1.5 litres daily and make sure you move your body to help reduce stress and stimulate healthy bowel movements.
The Overweight Opera Singer
Lumpy, large, hard and thick
Difficult to pass, feels like concrete, often accompanied by straining and pain
Stools may contain blood due to tearing of haemorrhoids or anal tears (fissures)
Bowel motions are often infrequent
Medium to dark brown
Could be - constipation, dehydration, a sedentary lifestyle, consuming too much protein which stresses the kidneys and can result in chronic dehydration. Hard dry stools are difficult to pass. Poor diet that lacks sufficient fibre and water.
Aim for one palm portion (excluding your fingers) of quality, unprocessed protein with every meal. Avoid processed meats and processed protein shakes and bars at all costs. Water, fibre and movement will support you here too.
The Pop Singer - The Exhibitionist
Likes to expose what she’s eaten
Contains visible undigested food remnants
Colour - varies
Could be - Maldigestion - incomplete or impaired digestion and Malabsorption - poor absorption of nutrients from food, dysbiosis (putrefactive or fermentative), low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) or pancreatic insufficiency.
Start optimising your digestion today by having 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in room temperature water 10-20 minutes before meals, chew food slowly and thoroughly, avoid having large glasses of liquid with meals and use loads of bitter foods and herbs and spices with meals. Learn more about optimising digestion here.
Smooth Crooner - Da Man
Sausage, S shaped, smooth, long
Slides out easily
Pinches off at the end without leaving any debris on the bum
Mild smell, not repulsive
Feels like a complete emptying of the bowels
Painless and without blood
Says hello once or twice daily
Medium brown like milk chocolate
You may even experience Poo-phoria a feeling of euphoria after a bowel movement...It’s a real thing according to gastroenterologist Dr Anish Sheth.
Could be - a healthy poo-ing experience
The Tortured Lean Muso
Narrow, skinny, pencil-like stools
May be accompanied by straining
Could be - Infrequent narrow stools is not of huge concern however if experienced often, consult your healthcare practitioner as it may be a sign of bowel obstruction, faecal impaction, or a tumour especially if accompanied with bleeding or severe pain.
The Toxic Musician
Can smell foul
Black, tarry (sticky and shiny), bright red, maroon or red
Could be - Black stools may indicate bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, Ulcers etc. Red or maroon blood may be indicative of diverticula, Inflammatory conditions of the colon and rectum, Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, Haemorrhoids and Anal fissures, even cancer.
Black or red stools can also be due to medications and supplements such as iron or foods such as black liquorice, squid ink, beets or blueberries. If your stools are black and or tarry seek an evaluation from your healthcare practitioner.
The Roadie - The Floater
Floats to the top of the water
Generally light in colour, pale, grey, green or yellow
Could be - malabsorption or excess gas in stool due to certain foods such as sugar, lactose, starch, fibre, lactose intolerance, gastrointestinal infections, Celiac disease or Cystic fibrosis.
Reduce intake of common trigger foods such as gluten, dairy and excess sugar and implement digestion optimization techniques to see whether the floaty behaviour subsides.
The Greasy, slimy singer
Contains fat globules (steatorrhoea), mucus or pus
Might be bulky, mushy, greasy or oily and difficult to flush
May have a foul stench and usually floats
An oily anal leakage or faecal incontinence may be present
Pale, light yellow, clay coloured, grey
Could be - Malabsorption and maldigestion. Impaired digestion of fats, poor bile production, an infection or inflammation in the bowel, IBS, inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn's, and ulcerative colitis, leaky gut, chronic pancreatitis, SIBO, cirrhosis, short bowel syndrome or colon cancer especially when associated with blood and pain.
Note - Mucus is produced in the intestines to protect and coat the gut lining.
Avoid harmful man-made fats and reduce excessive overall fat intake, avoid alcohol and gluten and consider having your bowel, gallbladder and pancreas checked.
The Love Song Singer
Loose, watery, liquid, diarrhoea
May contain food particles, blood, pus or mucus
May be accompanied by fever, chills, and abdominal pain
More than three watery bowel movements daily.
Could be - dehydration, a virus, bacterial or parasitic infection, food poisoning, nerves, IBS, gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, carbohydrate malabsorption such as lactose intolerance, inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn's, ulcerative colitis or leaky gut.
Diarrhoea can also be a sign of a type of constipation called bowel overflow where loose stool seeps out around a hard impacted stool. Your body’s desperate attempt to get rid of waste.
Medications and supplements such as magnesium, antacids and laxatives can cause diarrhoea. Diarrhoea dehydrates and upsets our electrolyte balance which weakens the body and should not be left unattended for more than three days.
During this time avoid common trigger foods such as gluten, dairy and excess sugar and make sure you re-inoculate with the appropriate prebiotic and probiotic strain. Consider stool testing if diarrhoea persists.
Poop colour and scent
Medium brown is ideal. Variations from brown may indicate incomplete or impaired digestion.
Green poop often means that food is passing through your digestive tract quickly, which can be a sign that something is not agreeing with your body and it is being removed asap. You may be moving toward diarrhoea. Certain foods and supplements such as leafy vegetables, spirulina and chlorophyll can cause poop to be green too.
Grey, yellow or white
May indicate the presence of mucus and/or a problem with the liver, bile production, gallbladder or pancreas. Certain medications such as antacids and antibiotics may produce white or yellow stools. Yellow stools may also indicate an infection from pathogens such as giardia or be indicative of Gilbert's syndrome.
Black, tarry (sticky and shiny), bright red or red
Congealed blood is black; fresh blood is red. See The Toxic Musician for more on this.
It is normal for poop to smell, however if the odour is extremely foul, it should not be ignored. Foul smelling stool may be a sign of conditions such as a malabsorption, Celiac disease, Crohn's disease, carbohydrate intolerance, food allergies, chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, short bowel syndrome and infections (bacterial, viral or parasitic) such as Clostridium Difficile.
Please note that this is a general guide only. The big take home is that if you experience a change in bowel frequency and appearance, don’t ignore it or suffer in silence. Seek professional advice as your poo may be trying to tell you something.
Learn about how to get your poop back to normal with the following article 15 Tricks To Have A Great Poop, Every Time.
Illustrations by Joel Tarling.